The dwarf planet Ceres, long believed to be a barren space rock, is an ocean world with reservoirs of sea water beneath its surface, the results of a major exploration mission showed Monday.
Astronomers using the Herschel Space Observatory have detected water vapor on the dwarf planet Ceres, the biggest object in the main asteroid belt
Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, enabling the NASA Dawn spacecraft to capture high-resolution images of its surface.
Now a team of scientists from the United States and Europe have analysed images relayed from the orbiter, captured around 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the asteroid.
They focused on the 20-million-year-old Occator crater and determined that there is an "extensive reservoir" of brine beneath its surface.
Several studies published Monday in the journals Nature Astronomy, Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications also shed further light on the dwarf planet, which was discovered by Italian polymath Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801.
Using infrared imaging, one team discovered the presence of the compound hydrohalite, a material common in sea ice but which until now had never been observed off of Earth.
Ceres is around 950 km across and was discovered on January 01, 1801 by the Sicilian astronomer Father Giuseppe Piazzi.
Astronomers thought it was a planet orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Later, other cosmic bodies with similar orbits were found, marking the discovery of the asteroid belt.
Planetary researchers believe Ceres has a rocky inner core, an icy mantle, and a thin outer crust inferred from its density and rotation rate of 9 hours. The materials making up Ceres likely date from the first few million years of our Solar System’s existence and accumulated before the planets formed.